Growing up in Winter Park, we were so close. We were like the two halves of the same person.”
Dr. Norman Anderson recalls his high school friend, Robert “Rusty” Boisonneault, who died of Hodgkin’s Disease (lymphatic cancer) at age 21. When Dr. Anderson founded the Robert Boisonneault Oncology Institute (RBOI), he credited his friend with helping him dedicate his life’s work to providing the best cancer care possible. In 1998 RBOI was awarded accreditation by the American College of Radiology (ACR), the highest honor that can be awarded a radiation oncology practice in the US. RBOI has maintained this accreditation ever since.
Dr. Anderson’s care extended to RBOI’s physical presence. He designed the initial facility’s layout himself, working with architect Earl Swenson of Nashville, Tennessee. The result is a masterful blend of scientific and psychological planning. “When a patient is diagnosed as having cancer, the impact is overwhelming,” says Anderson. For that reason, RBOI pays considerable attention to emotional as well as to medical needs.
Instead of a cold, impersonal waiting room, RBOI provides a “living room” with all the comforts of home. Facilities use soft lighting, generous windows, and calming music. One does not hear people being paged. Ponds and atria (depending on location) make these facility environments uplifting, while their layout emphasizes both accessibility and privacy.
When RBOI first opened its doors in Ocala in 1990, there was no other building like it in the country. Its medical equipment was and continues to be state-of-the-art, with quality control second to none. RBOI’s Varian linear accelerators are maintained onsite by top-notch former Varian engineers, whose fulltime presence makes them readily available for any maintenance needs.
Those accelerators link to the industry’s most advanced computer system for patient planning. “By combining the action of the linear accelerator and the computer system, we can get radiation deep into the body without damage to normal tissues along the way,” Anderson says. Previously, such tumors would have been impossible to reach. “Collectively, the staff has had many years of experience in radiation therapy, and we all have the same philosophy: The patient comes first.”
That staff includes in-house social workers and cancer navigators, available at every step of treatment and beyond. And people, not phone trees, staff the reception desk during business hours.
“I cannot verbally convey my true appreciation for and reliance upon what my staff does for our medical profession,” Dr. Anderson says. “I feel it every day and sleep better at night because I depend on my staff. And it is true, you as our patient are an indispensable part that we together eventually provide the ultimate answer for the ideal practice of medicine.”
It is a fitting tribute to Rusty Boisonneault. “He died too young,” Anderson adds. “I wanted the center to bear his name. Now he will live a long time after me”